- Release Date: 28/08/2022
- Platform: CND Play
- Cast: Kamal Lochan, Stuti Choudhury, Mintu Baruah, Chinmoy Kotoky
- Director: Mrinmoy Saikia
The enormity of the drug trade in Assam dawned on me only after the news of police gunning down drug peddlers and numerous drug busts in and around Assam started being reported. This was something unbelievable as I had never seen or experienced this menace up close and believed that Assam was a state that enjoyed its alcohol more than anything else. Gradually I realized the enormity of the threat and with it came the understanding of how “hushed out” and “swept under the rug” the matter was. Kolongpar, a ravishing and disarming new web series by Mrinmoy Saikia aims and succeeds in introducing us to this very shady world and the massive impact that the unhindered operations of these men are having on society, people, and relationships. The series is also a cautionary tale on how the consumption and addiction of these drugs are shaping up a new generation that is not only defunct but also delusional.
I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for the makers to write a series like Kolongpar as there is so little available in the public domain on the subject that forms the basis of its plot. To create characters that were engulfed in this world and still felt like the people that we knew and interacted with must have been another challenge. They also had to build a believable world and populate it with characters that felt authentic but were also intelligible. If that was not hard enough, they also had to find a way to show the operations of the trade, its impact on a plethora of different individuals, and what law enforcement was doing to stop this vicious trade. Thankfully, Mrinmoy Saikia and his team deliver on all these counts and give us a series that is engrossing, realistic, heartbreaking, and ultimately complete.
Direction, dialogue, and interpersonal drama: –
One of the biggest strengths of the series is its astute direction. The ability and control of the director, Mrinmoy Saikia is visible in his dealing and direction of the different actors portraying different characters. The screenplay is peppered with little things that the characters are shown doing that are not essential to the plot or the characters but add so much more to everything. The dialogue in the series is reminiscent of what we are used to in places like this and it gives you a feeling of being in the thick of things. It never felt like watching a pre-conceived series as the dialogue and interpersonal drama between the characters flowed with such organic ease and naturality. Characters say things that you expect them to say in certain circumstances and that just makes the story and the drama that much more believable. There is a sense of seriousness and dread throughout the narrative and these feelings are only sparingly broken by some equally well-executed dark humour.
For a series like this, the performances were of mammoth importance, and it was through these performances that the director could grip the audience and lure them into this crooked and dark world. I was happy to note that every performance in the series was in strong keeping with the characters and the overall feel of the narrative. There wasn’t a single actor who didn’t do a good job and that includes actors playing parts that could have been avoided.
For me, Stuti Choudhury as the Journalist Shruti was the standout performance as it was her character that basically set the ball rolling on the entire plot and impacted the stakes of the different characters involved with her manoeuvrings. We see her for the first time when she walks into her home after her sister has died of a drug overdose and the media is on her doorsteps howling their lungs out and asking for her thoughts on the matter. The look on her face says it all. What amazed me about her essay was that she was able to maintain the same sombre expressions throughout but added subtle nuances in particular scenes to portray angst, rage, tragedy, and sly manipulations but always with a slice of the same pain that her character was initiated with. To have that kind of impact and range is not easy.
I was bowled over by her physicality in a scene where she gets into a physical tussle with another character. The naturality with which she retaliates is something you need to see to believe. In the very same scene, she shows her softer side almost instantaneously to another character while she is still sorting herself out and rubbing off tears. One must also take notice of the mannerisms and subtle nuances that Stuti brings to how the character moves and reacts to particular situations that are in strong keeping with the image of female journalists.
To sum it up, Shruti is one of the strongest and warmest characters that you will see in these times and Stuti must be lauded for bringing the character to life with power and poignance. Interestingly, she never falls for the tropes that make an actor bigger than the character in her essay.
Kamal Lochan is phenomenal as Basuda. His unconventional looks and his ability to switch between a wide range of emotions and physical states make Basuda not only the most unpredictable character of the series but also its most shocking. His expression of violence is beastly. His expression of care, love, and compassion is tender. His interactions with another character who idolizes him, and how he is torn between whether or not to let this character follow him and his life, form the basis of some of the most heart-warming interactions of the series. Even when he is meting out horrific violence to another character, it only takes him a second to hold his breath and speak in an angelic voice to his master before returning to his violent self within seconds of holding up the phone. For all this and more, Kamal Lochan is one of the mainstays of the series and easily one of the most fascinating new actors to have come out of Assam.
Every other performance in the series is just as well realized but it will be criminal on my part to not mention Sudarson Nath who plays a local journalist. His performance was so lifelike that there were moments when I thought to myself if he was playing a character or whether it was him all the way. He is darkly funny, highly sarcastic, and very unpredictable. Just watch out for the scene where he tries to take out information from another character by sharing a drink with him.
The cinematography by Asutosh Kashyap is consistently brilliant. As I watched the series on my handheld device, I couldn’t help but imagine what a fantastic visual experience this series would have been on a larger screen. The fact that the series is shot in a way that is aimed to be enjoyed on a much larger screen makes me rue the fact that it is out only on an app. A lot is happening in the background of the visuals that we are presented with and if one looks closely one can see buildups to major events happening in the background. This is something that makes certain scenes even more special.
I absolutely loved the music of the series. The songs are meaningful and melodious and they tug at your heartstrings filling you up with a plethora of different but potent emotions. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that the music of the series made at least one portion that was otherwise, not as important and impactful as the others, a lot more watchable. This portion was always complemented by some of the best music in the series. The background score is just as effective and elevates certain moments by being the perfect companion piece to the emotions engulfing our senses in the said portions.
There were elements in the series that could have been better and some that weren’t as well thought-out but the rest of the series is so on-point that I find it futile to discuss these issues. Kolongpar will take you on a journey through well-known lanes and milieu but will show you things that you didn’t know existed. In that lies its greatest strength. This is easily one of the best series to have come out of Assam and I urge all my readers to watch it at least once.